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Deep Work Sessions

March 4, 2021
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Do you find it difficult to complete tasks in without getting distracted? If so, deep work sessions may help you with your productivity.

What is deep work?

Deep work is a state of productivity where you are able to focus on a demanding task without getting distracted. During deep work sessions, your brain processes information quicker and you are in "focus" mode.

How can I use deep work?

The first step to reaching a deep work state is to recognize your distractors. While completing tasks, what gets you sidetracked? Is it a notification on your phone, or stumbling upon a cat video compilation? In both cases, it's important to understand how you get distracted so you can actively prevent it.

Once you've understood your biggest distractors, create blockers for these distractions. In other words, set up additional hoops to access these distractions for yourself. For example, if a notification usually throws you off-track, try turning off notifications, or temporarily switching on Do Not Disturb on your phone/desktop, ensuring only essential, task-related notifications come through. If you have the tendency of picking up your phone and mindlessly scrolling through social media, start an Opal session while you're doing work: each time you want to scroll on Instagram, you'll be asked to start a break and set an intention for the break — these steps intentionally make it harder for you to scroll on these apps and get distracted.

Deep Work Power Tips

Creating additional blockers for your distractors isn't the only action you can take to improve your productivity to a deep work state. Here are a few tips from Cal Newport's book (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World):

  1. Give yourself strict boundaries of when to work and be clear about what you want to accomplish at the end of this session. Often, we get sidetracked when there is no clear end goal or natural end to work sessions. It's more rewarding to plan for (and complete) two pages of a paper from 2-4pm than it is to have a goal of finishing the entire assignment but blocking out the entire day, but end up only completing two pages and being unproductive for the rest of your time.
  2. Similarly, reverse-schedule your calendar. Instead of having a daily to-do list, also block out when you want to work on specific tasks. Our article on Personal Time-ance outlines time-blocking, and this is a similar concept — as you give yourself time limits to accomplish certain tasks, it will create a sense of urgency that motivates you to get that task done within the timeframe.
  3. Use commutes or down-time for shallow work. Activities like replying to emails, Slack messages, folding laundry, and filling in forms/spreadsheets take less time and headspace and it's a good idea to save these for your "breaks" from deep work sessions — when you find yourself getting tired or stuck on your cognitively demanding task — as a reset that won't cause you to spiral into unproductivity.

Do you implement deep work sessions in your schedule? Which of these tips work best for you?

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